Friday, 3 January 2014

Auntie Jo'sThamesway Theatre

Dance Tales Story Ballets - The Little Match Girl
I think my love of theatre can be attributed to my beautifully, brilliant and eccentric Auntie Jo who played the piano, taught dancing to young ladies, was a superb secretary and manager and loved the theatre.

Auntie Jo had a theatre of her own, a toy theatre which had lights and a curtain. She would produce a pantomime for the family at Christmas. Rehearsals were held in secret so that we children had no idea of what was in store and then after the Christmas feast was cleared up the huge dining room would be turned into a theatre.

It was magic. Christmas at Thamesway was unforgettable and for me every Christmas is judged on this standard. So far only one has been as good.

Local children were invited to this performance and this is how I met Pam Vincent/Burke who's mother and father ran the cafe down the road. Pam and I loved it and I think this is what made us both decide to go on the stage. This was the beginning of a lifelong friendship and Pam has become my sort of sister. She too can verify that this performance was magic and made the rather bleak postwar Christmas truly one out of the box.

Jack in the Beanstalk,1946 was the most memorable pantomime and the grown up's worked so hard to make it a proper grown up affair. We all loved Jack hiding in the fireplace and we screamed at the Giant who because he was paper on a stick weighted with a penny was enormous. We all rushed to the theatre when the Giant fell down the beanstalk to his death!

Daddy took it home  to Stanmore and made a few additions. He rewired the footlights and added a proscenium arch. Mummy made a new curtain. 

Aunty Jo went on to produce The Coronation and I had to spend hours cutting out the Royal Procession. We did it in 1953. Aunty Jo had the night before at the Palace with Princess Margaret dressed in green tulle and sequins, smoking and playing the piano. Aunty Jo made my cousin Gillian and I rehearse for days to get it quite right. It was very impressive.

Later I owned the theatre and I produced Red Riding Hood. It was my first production and it took me a whole year, to make the puppets and paint the scenery. I used it in Dance Tales, in The Little Matchgirl, and the children in the studio still loved it.

The theatre unused and unloved lives in my attic. I have not the heart to throw it away. Nobody wants a toy theatre in 2014 but it is my Rosebud.

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